Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Stir-fry Seasonings

posted in Spices and Seasonings by Kathy Maister

There are certain food combinations that always work together: salt and pepper, peanut butter & jelly, hot dogs & baked beans, fish & chips, gin & tonic just to name a few. Spices and seasonings work that way too. Nothing goes better with apple pie than cinnamon and nutmeg.

Stir fry recipes have their own unique set of seasoning ingredients.

Some may be more familiar to you than others. In my Chicken & Broccoli stir fry video, I used soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and sesame oil as the four basic ingredients. Here is a very brief introduction to these ingredients.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a dark, intensely flavored, salty sauce used for flavoring a lot of different foods. Soup, sauces, meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, you name it, and soy sauce works with them all. Different brands may be saltier than others. You often see it as a table condiment at Asian restaurants.

Oyster Sauce

Guess what it’s made from? You’re right! Oysters! Plus a lot of other ingredients (like soy sauce, salt, water, possibly MSG and cornstarch) depending on the brand you buy. It’s dark brown in color and very thick. It will not pour out of the jar – you need a spoon to scoop it out. It has a wonderful rich flavor that is not at all fishy. Oyster sauce helps to thicken the sauce in Stir Fries.

Chili Paste

Chili paste (not to be confused with chili oil, chili powder, or chili sauce), is made with red chilies, fava beans, flour, and (sometimes) garlic. Different brands have different levels of “heat”, so be careful! If you like foods to be hot and spicy, this is the ingredient for you. Add a small amount at a time until you figure out what you like.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has a very strong flavor and fragrance. It is often used as a flavor enhancer rather than for frying. You can buy a light colored sesame oil that has a less intense flavor than the dark sesame oil.

Many people consider soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil as the basic 3 stir fry ingredients.

Buying these 3 at a minimum, is a wise choice if you plan on doing stir fry.

Cheers!

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How to: Strawberries

posted in Fruits by Kathy Maister

Strawberries, once just a summertime treat, are now available year round. Especially tasty are the locally grown ones that are now showing up at farmers’ markets.

Always choose strawberries that are plump, firm and glossy.

Wash them just before using them.

I always wash my supermarket strawberries, in a colander, under a gentle spray of running water. Or you can swish the strawberries around in a bowl with cool tap water.

(Actually my old friend Roger never washed strawberries. He felt it washed away the flavor. But then again he lived in the south of France and only bought them from the local farmer who grew them organically.)

Once washed, spread the strawberries out on a clean dish towel to dry.

To “hull” a strawberry means to remove the green leafy top and the tiny stalk. If you plan on hulling tons of strawberries, you may want to buy a strawberry huller. But a small paring knife works very well for hulling a quart or two.

Start by grasping the green top…

…and just trim out that tiny stem.

Or you could just slice off the whole top with a small paring knife.

Just pulling off the green leafy top (as shown below) is NOT enough. You need to remove that tiny bit of white, hard stem as well.

To store strawberries, place them in a single layer in a moisture-proof plastic container that has a tight fitting lid.

Lay a paper towel on top of the strawberries and then put the lid on the container. When you put them in the refrigerator, store them with the lid side down in the refrigerator.

Stored this way they should stay fresh for at least 2-3 days.

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Recipes to die for:

Strawberries dipped in Chocolate from startcooking.com

Strawberries Romanoff –Strawberries soaked in orange juice/curacao/cointreau and served with Whipped Cream

Strawberry Short Cake – a classic that everybody loves!

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Cooking Green Beans

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

Green beans are one of those vegetables that are available year round at the grocery store. Make sure you buy ones that have a nice bright color and are free of blemishes.

With just a sprinkle of salt and two minutes in the microwave, you’ve got a fresh vegetable for dinner. Given they cook so quickly, make only enough for what you are going to eat for dinner tonight.

About 24 (four inch long) green beans will be enough for two servings.

The first thing you have to do is “top and tail” the beans. That’s the official term used to nip the tips off each end of the beans.

You can line them up and with a knife cut the ends off. As long as the beans are young and fresh, they should not be stringy. If they are stringy you will need to nip the ends off, one at a time, with your fingers. This same technique is used when making snow peas as well.

Sort of drag the tip off, pulling any of the stringy bit off as you go.

Rinse the beans in a colander.

Put them in a microwave safe dish. Add about 2 Tablespoons of water.

Cover the beans with plastic wrap leaving a small corner open.

If you seal them completely, the plastic wrap will almost shrink-wrap itself to the beans. This makes it a lot harder to remove the plastic wrap and much more likely you will get burned by the trapped steam.

Some people serve green beans with lashings of butter, or with almonds. I prefer them just with salt and sometimes a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cheers!

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